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Who is Self Help Sunday?

A little bit about me

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I’m a mid-fifties northern Californian who retired in November 2015. I’ve always liked to write, but haven’t really written much creatively since 6th grade. Sixth grade was when I wrote a story in my AP English class and it garnered a bit of praise from the teacher. Writing that story was almost an out-of-body experience. I woke up with ideas and the writing process flowed.

I read that story recently, and I cringed just a bit. Well, I was only in 6th grade.

Writing has been part of my work life but has mainly been in the form of varying types of government communication: legislative and policy analysis, programmatic and fiscal guidance, and grants. I’m looking forward to just writing what I want and being myself – whoever that is.

Because I’m not always sure. I’m very fortunate to have retired at a young age and it sure beats working. However, it is a transition. I’m still in the process of figuring all of it out.

So this is one of the things I’ve wanted to do: start a blog. So here it is. #blogging101 #retirement #writing

I’ll Take It

I’ll take all the rain, and all the crazy weather we’re having — we get a lot of the good sunshine so I’m just as happy to wake up to loud water beating down on the skylights. Especially since I don’t have to drive in it anymore!

I’ll take my 25 minutes of indoor cycling, which I squeezed in after picking up my car at the body shop. I didn’t exercise yesterday as I was being mindful of not pushing myself after being sick, so afterwards, I stopped at the gym.

This most recent car repair was body work that I’ve been putting off. I mean, there are lots of others things to spend a couple of thousands of dollars on. My car has had a really hard time of it. I bought it new in 2012, a Toyota Camry hybrid. In 2013, I was hit by my own car in a parking lot and the poor thing had $13,000 damage to it. I ended up n the neuro-trauma ICU with a brain bleed so we both got banged up. The first pic is my car in the parking lot. The woman in the SUV said she slipped and hit the gas instead of the brake…uh huh. The second picture is in the tow lot.

In 2014, someone sideswiped me or rather “end” swiped me running through a red light. Since I stopped at the light and they didn’t, I didn’t get any information on them. Then, I sideswiped a pole in the work garage.  Finally, my husband hit the right front bumper as he was entering the garage. So, there were a lot of dings and scrapes on it, and honestly, I got sick of people asking me  about the biggest dent, since it’s on the passenger side and folks assume it just happened.

I’ll take having my car back! I get antsy not having the freedom of my own car and I realize how privileged this is. I could use my husband’s whenever, but not having my own ride made me feel penned in.

And I’ll take a little weird thing that happened. I stopped at the library after the gym, just to stop in quickly to drop off some things. Well, it’s never a quick stop because the book store always needs help as people graciously donate a lot. So I spent time sorting and shelving and found a surgery text from the 1970’s. I recognized it and the author, someone my dad trained under in San Francisco, and sure enough, my dad was the author of two chapters.

How weird is that. It has bothered me that I never have dreams or feelings or experiences where I feel my dad is close or watching. But this kind of feels like it. So I’ll take it.

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Doing it – imperfectly.

The most prevalent writing advice I hear is…WRITE. I put off writing here because I’m afraid of lots of things. Mainly, it won’t be perfect. It won’t be funny or meaningful No one is going to read it anyway. HEY that should be all the more reason to write!

But I’m doing it anyway.

I had a big idea that if I get my writing space just right (missed opportunity for a pun there), I will magically make the time to write and it will flow. But I’m reading a book by Jen Sincero called You Are a Badass and the most recent chapter resonated with me. Because the author said that she spent all of this time getting her perfect writing space together only to write her first book at her dining room table. So the message is, don’t wait.

Yikes. That is exactly the sort of procrastination path I’ve been on. I have a spare room that became my office many years ago when I had to write a grant all by myself. I was fortunate to be able to work from home during that time, and set things up in our guest room with my cats as my team.

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The mess of the room, above, and Pea Pod, my little former feral, below.

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A few years later, my dad died as did Pea Pod and all hell broke loose for me. The grant writing room became the estate settlement room. I moved two small file cabinets in along with banker’s boxes and have used that space for that purpose since then. Along with being the estate settlement room, it also was the “managing Mom’s affair’s” room, as she had dementia so I was in charge of her bills and her car. When she died last year, the room went back to estate settlement decor.

Between and among those times, I retired and made some movements towards it being writing room, and even more. After a bit of a detour into clinical depression, circa 2014-15, I began using meditation and yoga more and hoped to also have a dedicated space to heal. Estate settlement means someone has died and when that someone is your dad and then your mom, there is a lot of crying involved. I’ve cried a lot in this room. I have a shirt and vest of my dad’s and the first year he was gone I would put my face in those garments and try to smell every last part of him. I’ve added a shirt of my mom’s and a blanket that used to be on her bed.

So I guess the point is, I’m writing. And doing it even if it’s not perfect. On a portable table from Costco, and remnants of paperwork abounding. And even space for my new team, who are really good at helping me heal.

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Taffy and Trinket – rescued May 2015

What I DO like about the holidays

A few things I like about this time of the year

The last blog I wrote was a bit of a downer. So I want to offset that some by offering up what I do like about the holidays.

The lights. I love that people take the time and effort to decorate, especially with lights. We are not so inclined. I do love driving through the neighborhood and seeing the different displays. I think the world would be a lot more cheerful with lights up all year round. But I do understand not wanting to pay the energy bills.

Mint m and ms. I love them. Not the dark chocolate m and m’s; i LIKE those but I love the holiday mint ones. And I think they’ve changed over the years. They seem to be larger in size than in the past. But the same great taste. I am ashamed that I’ve already gone through several bags already.

Gingerbread. Especially the cookies that you can get at Trader Joe’s. Yum. The little ones with the white fudge icing.

Hallmark movies. I do enjoy a good cheesy Hallmark movie. One year I got hooked because the first one I watched was The Nine Lives of Christmas.

I mean, it has cats, a fire fighter, and a female veterinarian. What’s not to like???

I like the change in weather. Here in California, we don’t have extremes but in Sacramento, the leaves change and it gets plenty cold. I like wearing sweaters and fleece and taking a hot bath.

So there are a few things I like about this time of year. Even if some of these same things makes me wistful and sad. What are a few of your favorite things?

#Christmas, #m&ms, #traderjoes

Holiday Decorations

 

I got down some of our holiday decorations today in a sudden splurge of inspiration. Maybe it was watching the Kardashian’s Christmas special…where money is no object and there are vast sweeping entry ways to stage a grand tree.

This is what our tree looks like.

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Yes, that is an artificial tree on our barbeque. Outdoors.

I love a good Christmas tree and who wouldn’t enjoy having a DECORATOR like the Kardashians to do all the work and make things pretty. I’m just realistic. We have these two to contend with – our teenage girls who get into anything and everything.

 

I can’t even leave toilet paper on the roll anymore. Taffy gets frustrated and tears into it.

It’s been years since we’ve had a real tree. For a couple of years when my husband’s kids were younger, we’d get one for his house in the Bay Area. I wouldn’t bother, because we’d end up going to my parents’ house in North Carolina and what was the point to be gone and have to come home and take it down. And my husband, who we call Mr. Safety, worried about dry trees and house fires.

This time of year is a bit melancholy for me. We used to be with my parents’ over Christmas and despite being its own kind of hard, it was what we did. There were usually a few social events to attend and my dad did his own best at decorating. He bought a really nice artificial tree from the airline magazine one year – it was perfect for him because you basically unfolded the thing and it was decorated and pre-lit. We’d get to the house and he’d already decorated. We would also be treated to the story of his childhood plastic Santa and reindeer toy that graced the mantelpiece; a little worse for the wear after spending summers in a humid un-airconditioned attic.  It broke my heart a little when I tossed the tree onto the thrift store loading dock after he died and we were clearing out the house. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do the same to the plastic Santa.

Holidays there were further complicated by my mom’s illness. Holidays are a variation on a theme when your mom has dementia and you live 3,000 miles away. Over the course of the 15 years my mom was in assisted living, I’d spend the 4-5 days there taking her to appointments so my dad would get a break; help get new clothes or take her shopping; act as hostess for my dad so he could reciprocate with the neighbors who invited him for dinner every Sunday. On Christmas Day, we’d have to organize the schedule to optimize the chance that Mom would be able to participate in opening gifts and eating a meal with us. It was a dicey situation — sometimes she wouldn’t want to get out of bed when we came to get her, and when we got her home, she had little interest in opening gifts. She was also impatient about food and would continually ask when we would eat, or get into dessert or continually ask for a diet Coke. I used to joke that she was royalty in another life because she was always asking us to get her something.

My mom died this year, on June 16. The same day my dad did, four years ago. So as much as those holidays were difficult, they are more so this year because she is no longer on the earth. I have such mixed feelings about her death. She lived with a cruel illness for too long. But what I would give to see her again.

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The unexpected.

I broke my ankle on Monday trying to get into a kayak. No I wasn’t drinking….just coke zero. Having fun hanging out with some friends on Labor Day.

It was my turn to go kayaking – my friends are very generous and allow us to use theirs since we don’t have kayaks. So I straddled the kayak and then…I slipped. My right ankle gave way and I fell ON IT. And into the water. Which was funny, actually except I couldn’t get up without help. And realized right away I shouldn’t get into the kayak, so I walked back up to our table and sat down, feet up, and someone got me a big bag of ice.

My ankle and foot began swelling immediately. We left soon after, me needing a lot of help getting to the car. Once home, I continued to ice and elevate my foot.

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At the doctor the next day, an x-ray confirmed a fracture. I was in an air cast for a week, and got a boot during my visit to orthopedics yesterday.

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This experience has been painful and emotional. I’m having a hard time getting around; the crutches and walker hurt to use. My sister brought over a wheeled walker, which is better. But I still get exhausted trying to get around and have to depend on my husband for a lot of help.

This isn’t easy for me. I am very independent. I’m still trying to do things myself and putting weight on it more than I should. It hurts. And I’m frustrated.

I don’t ask for help easily and I know this is a problem. My parents were both stoic Mid-Westerners, and the “up by the boot straps” mentality runs deep. But I know that ignoring the need for help can be risky. My tendency is to go go go and ignore what I need. This got me into trouble 3 years ago, after my dad died and I had to manage things related to his estate, and take over the responsibility of my mom’s care.

Being disabled this way, even temporarily, made me sympathetic for those who have permanent physical challenges. And it made me really sad thinking about my mom, and how she was that way for a really long time – she acquired dementia at age 65, and had other illnesses including COPD, and limitations from a stroke. So I’ve been crying some the past few days, as I remember my mom and her bravery as she faced so many health hurdles.

Well, the cats have found the walker interesting and haven’t hesitated to claim it as their own. foot (2)

So will leave that here.

When I miss them the most

I’ve been away from this place a lot and I was never here much to begin with. I’m hoping that will change.

Today I found out I broke my ankle. Like a lot of the injuries I’ve had, there’s a story. This one was trying to get into a kayak yesterday (Labor Day). I slipped and went down, which was pretty funny as I went butt-first into the water –except I landed awkwardly on my ankle and it hurt. I needed help getting up and was going to try again (I really wanted to kayak!) but I couldn’t put any weight on it. Sure enough, as I sat in the zero-gravity chair and put ice on it, it swelled to a nice fat shape and began to turn blue.

Being like the rest of my family, pick yourself up by the bootstraps kind of lot, I socialized until my husband returned from his kayak journey. By the time we got home, I couldn’t walk on my foot.

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My dad was a doctor and a good one at that. Whenever anyone used to have medical issues or injuries, they’d contact him. Anyone. He was happy to help anyone and he was an excellent clinician, even over a distance. So when I’m hurting now, I just want to talk to him. And I can’t.

I’ve felt recently that friends and acquaintances are tired of my grief. Even my new grief, which is from my mom dying on June 16….four years to the day that my dad died. So I’m putting it here. And missing them both while I’m hurting. Physically, and emotionally.

 

Making holidays happen.

Who makes the holidays happen in your family and life? Lately, I’ve been a bit hyper-aware that it’s women. Most of my life, it was my mom who made things happen. She was the one who shopped and did the stockings, and decorated. We’d usually get some See’s candy and those Lifesavers storybooks. Does anyone remember those? I didn’t particularly care for them, but it was part of what Christmas was in our house.

When I was REALLY young, we’d be at my grandmother’s house in Kansas. My aunt and uncle were cool intellectual types and would get us matching jammies from someplace chic like Bloomingdale’s. This is what I was told, not what I remember!

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When my parents first moved to NC in 1983, they’d give a big party at our house before Christmas. My mom had help, but I know it was stressful and hard for her, being very introverted and somewhat socially phobic. Later in life when my mom got sick, my dad was pretty good about holidays and birthdays. He liked giving gifts, and he liked Christmas. While it was stressful for us to go back there to visit every year, I miss it now that he’s gone. Somehow, he got into Tiffany (!) and I have several nice necklaces from there, mainly the Elsa Peretti heart necklace. I saw this necklace recently and know that if Dad was alive, he’d get it for me for Christmas.

What I notice being out and about is that it’s usually women who are shopping and wearing the holiday sweaters and jewelry. Preparing for family and work gifts, for the meals. The men are usually tagging along, pushing the cart or looking lost (or in some cases, annoyed). I told my husband several times he has it easy. I’m the one who gives gifts to our vet, my doctor, my hairdresser, I’m preparing cash for our pet-sitter while we’re gone to San Diego and remembered to pick up some nice coffee and a candle for his brother and SIL (whom we are staying with).

This time of year can be fun and also difficult. So much pressure if you let it. I try not to. I try to plan during the year and keep it simple for the few people I do give something to. I’ve been sad a lot this year, missing my dad. I was with my sisters last night – my older sister wanted us to get together, so we went over to their house. KT decided to make veggie chili so he’d have something to eat, and it ended up being the main course. I brought mini-bundt cakes for dessert. Although I’ve said I’d prefer a gift certificate rather than “stuff” my sister got me a bunch of things that while thoughtful, aren’t what I’d use or need. I’m trying to clean stuff out, not accumulate more! I gave both of them gift cards, a book, and a shirt.

My sisters are gathering again for Christmas. My aunt (mom’s sister) has made a big deal of flying out here from Indianapolis for the past couple of years to spend the day with us. My cousin lives in LA so they fly there and then drive up. In 2014, we were all together and my aunt asked if there was anything she could do to help my mom. I said, well, you could go visit her. My aunt drives to SC to see my cousin a lot so goes right by where my mom lives, and travels a lot for fun. She said she would but she never has. It has really bugged me for a while, and I’m working hard not to let it.But it doesn’t mean I want to spend time with her or my cousin. My cousin and uncle drink too much and they have very different political views. I’m at the point in my life where I don’t feel the need to spend time with people, even family, if I don’t feel like it.

So I’m hoping to get some rest over the next few days, read, and go for some walks. I hope all of you are able to have the holiday(s) that you wish for. Peace and light.

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